Mesenchymal-Epithelial Interactions in the Growth and Development of the Urogenital Tract

  • G. R. Cunha


Mesenchymal-epithelial interactions are known to be of prime importance during development. In many developing organs, mesenchyme influences epithelial growth, induces specific patterns of ductal branching morphogenesis, specifies epithelial morphology and spatial organization, and elicits specific patterns of epithelial cytodifferentiation and functional activity (1–5). In the genital tract, mesenchymal-epithelial interactions are also known to regulate the expression of specific hormone receptors (6–7). Although it has been formerly thought that hormonal effects on epithelial cells are elicited directly by intra-epithelial receptors, investigation of androgenic and estrogenic responses in male and female genital tracts, respectively, suggests that a spectrum of hormonal effects elicited by sex steroids in epithelial cells are elicited via indirect processes regulated by mesenchyme. While all organogenetic processes are initiated prenatally, organs of the reproductive system are rudimentary at birth, and most of the developmental processes as well as the onset of functional activity occur over extended periods postnatally. In laboratory rodents, organogenesis of the reproductive tract takes place in the period from the latter third of gestation to about 2 months postpartum, during which time new tissue architecture forms. It is likely that postnatal morphogenesis proceeds by the same fundamental developmental mechanisms that are operative during earlier prenatal periods. However, the question arises as to the exact role of mesenchymal-epithelial interactions in adulthood after morphological and functional maturity is attained.


Androgen Receptor Seminal Vesicle Female Genital Tract Vaginal Epithelium Uterine Epithelium 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. R. Cunha
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnatomyUniversity of CaliforniaSan FranciscoUSA

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